Seal Beach Police chief gives City Council a local COVID-19 update

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Seal Beach will take a phased-in approach to re-opening the beach, according to Police Chief Phil Gonshak. Gonshak presented the city’s “Roadmap to Recovery” during his Monday, April 27, update to the City Council on the local pandemic emergency.

No date has been set yet.

The chief also discussed the criteria for reopening the Old Ranch Country Club.

Public comments emailed to the City Council called on the council to reopen the beach and the pier.

In related news, as of Tuesday morning, April 28, 650 individuals had signed the online petition  “Seal Beach City Council Open Our Beaches,” according to the Sun’s browser. (Petition organizers have given slightly different numbers recently, which may simply reflect the browsers being used.)

Background

The Orange County Board of Supervisors recently approved reopening beaches, as did the city of Huntington Beach.

Seal Beach closed the beaches and parks as part of the city government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Officials say you may use the green spaces as long you maintain social distancing.)

Seal Beach residents on various social media platforms are debating the merits and extend of COVID-19 related restrictions. (The Sun has asked residents what they think of the city’s response on Facebook and Nextdoor. The Sun will report on the response in the near future.)

Case count

As of Tuesday, April 28, the County of Orange reported 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Seal Beach.

As of that date, Orange County reported 27,737 tests; 2,151 cumulative cases and 42 cumulative deaths.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Tuesday, April 28, there have been 981,246 known COVID-19 cases in the United States and 55,258 deaths.

Gonshak’s presentation

Chief Gonshak reported that Seal Beach had 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of the council meeting. His slide presentation showed a tunnel with a light at the end of it. He said Seal Beach “is not quite at the end of the tunnel, but we’re almost there.”

Gonshak reviewed the White House, state, county and local guidelines for easing COVID-19 related restrictions. Gonshak said Orange County was deferring to state guidelines.

Gonshak said there is no set date for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order to expire.

According to news reports, Newsom was not pleased to see crowded beaches over the past weekend and suggested the public’s behavior could effect when restrictions end. On Tuesday, April 28, the Newsom presented an update on the state’s four-stage plan to reopen the state. Right now, California is in stage one.

Right now, in Seal Beach’s own phase one, city and park amenities remain closed. The beach parking lots remain closed.

According to Gonshak, face covering will be recommended when reasonable and required when people are engaged in essential activities.

City Hall is open only by appointment. Gonshak said temperature checks are required for all first responders at the beginning and end of all shifts.

In discussing phase two of the reopening plan, Gonshak said reopening the beaches would require more staff, which would require more overtime.

Gonshak also went over the requirements for reopening the golf course at Old Ranch Country Club. The city recently ordered the golf course closed. However, the issue is apparently still being discussed by representatives of both Seal Beach and the country club.

Gonshak reported that the time frame for reopening the city is unknown.

According to Gonshak, Seal Beach is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and the Orange County health agency.

Gonshak cited a Nextdoor poll that reported 57% of 546 votes supported keeping the beach and the city closed.

Obviously, not everyone agrees.

Public comments

Two of the comments submitted to this week’s City Council meeting concerned reopening the pier and the beach. Public comments are considered public record. The complete messages can be found on the city’s website.

“My comment revolves around continued concern over the closure of the pier. If we can respect social distancing then the opening of the pier would definitely help businesses on Main Street,” wrote Jeffrey Blancq, of the Government Affairs Committee chairman for the Seal Beach Chamber, in an April 27 email to the council.

Resident Aimee Barber called for the reopening of the beach. “By keeping our pier and parking lots closed, there will be no room for out of town people to park therefore they will not flock here,” she wrote.

“Take Huntington Beach and Newport Beach for example. They never closed their beaches, but kept their parking and pier closed,” Barber wrote.

“Social distancing has not been an issue there and they are both much larger attractions then Seal Beach. Yes it was crowded but the crowds were managed,” Barber wrote.

“The city of Seal Beach has done a phenomenal job at staying inside and following the orders. But enough is enough,” Barber wrote.

“People need to be outside at the beach, this is WHY we live here. It is essential for our wellbeing. If someone doesn’t want the beach open, they should have the freedom to not go. But we deserve the freedom to choose,” Barber wrote.